Sears seems especially well positioned. In March, it launched a marketing campaign based on its "Blue Appliance Crew," who explain potential energy savings in various models, and show consumers how to track down and navigate the many rebate programs out there. The chain now has Energy Star Rebate Centers, in-store kiosks that make comparison shopping easier, will continue to offer no-interest financing for 12 months, and last week kicked off an industry-first Buyer's Protection Plan, which covers people who buy an appliance with their Sears card in the event of a job loss.
Currently, Sears is the leading Energy Star retailer, and its Kenmore brand is the leading Energy Star brand. "We listened to our customers and know that they want to do the right thing by purchasing Energy Star-qualified products," says Doug Moore, senior vice president and president of Home Appliances at Sears. "Using Sears Blue Appliance Crew members as a resource to assist customers before they go home encourages them to make environmentally smart purchases, simplifies the shopping experience and rewards their decision to purchase an Energy Star-rated appliance. Shoppers deserve their rebate money, and we want to make it as easy as possible."
Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Lowe's have all been suffering from steep declines in appliance sales, as the real estate market remains stuck in the doldrums. "Our latest numbers show the industry was off another 15% this year, through the end of June," says Jill Nottini, VP/marketing for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. "So we're thrilled with this new program - we see this as a win for everybody. It will help companies. It will help consumers save as much as 50% on their energy bills. And it's good for the environment."
The program, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will allow individual states to set rebate amounts, and decide which Energy Star products to include.
Nottini expects marketers and retailers to sweeten the government rebates, to further entice consumers. "This is a first-ever national appliance rebate program, and could still be coupled with other offers by manufacturers and retailers," she says. "For consumers who have been putting off the purchase of a new machine and are willing to do a little research, there will be plenty of good deals."